As many of you may have heard, Mesa County recently applied for and was granted a variance to the state regulations mandating response to Covid-19. The exact language is still being drafted, so right now we are unclear what the final guidelines will be, but we do know that restaurants will be allowed to open their dining rooms at 30% seating capacity. However, we are opting to keep our current To Go status a little while longer while we think about what reopening will look like for us.
What does this mean for us? We wanted to take this time to share with you all what our response to this, and our thoughts regarding such, will look like. This is going to be a bit of a lengthy brain dump, so bear with us, but if you’d like to know more about what goes on in the minds of the Tomatoes, read on.
Ok! To say that the month of March/beginning of April was stressful would be an understatement. The information coming at us was changing and updating daily, if not hourly, and so were our conversations. Do we close? Do we lay everyone off? Do we do Take Out? Can we handle food safely? How does this spread? Is our staff safe? Are our customers safe? It was an exhausting time period because every new piece of information carried with it the necessity to possibly have to pivot our business model and decision-making process, or at least have lengthy conversations around that new information.
We at the Tomato have always taken the very deliberate approach to not create top-down directives to our team. Every policy and procedure at an organizational level has been discussed and vetted by at the minimum our leadership team, and often the entire staff. ‘Buy-in’ is super important for us, and it has become even more so in our response to Covid. We want our team totally on board with our decisions, and to trust that we are looking out for their best interest. This meant that for the initial response period, we spent a ton of time meeting (albeit from a safe distance) and looking at all of our potential options.
Any time organizational changes are made within any business, all moving parts must be considered. Restaurants, in a nutshell, are full of moving parts. Even for us, where To Go pizzas have always been about 30% of our business, the transition to a Take Out only concept required retooling many of our procedures. Some of them we did in a fast and efficient manner, some of them not so much. This apology goes out to anyone who has sat on hold through a lengthy queue on our new phone system and then been accidentally hung up on.... or just received constant busy signals prior to said phone system.
The constant need to retool, reevaluate, and then pivot was what made so much of the 328 Days Of March/April (“Mapril”) so exhausting.
As we look at and consider the reality of what May will look like, we can't help but think it will feel very much the same, and this is guiding much of our decision-making process right now.
We finally feel like we have a decent system figured out.
“Mapril” existed in a state of constant Reaction, not Pro-activeness. This is a pretty uncomfortable place to be in as a business.
Because no one really has any answers right now on what a reopening process will look like, we are guessing that May has the potential to feel very much also like a reactionary period.
We don’t want to go through that immediately again.
We are choosing to go into this process in a very slow manner, and not jump immediately into procedures that might be mandated to change course.
In short, we are making the decision to not immediately open up our dining room right now.
Some of this is guided by our experience going into this process, and not wanting to relive that just yet, but some of this is also guided by the many questions that this raises for us in terms of the actual implementation of things. These are some of the considerations we are taking into to account:
We are counter service, how do we effectively limit customers to 30% of our occupancy?
“Just take some of the tables out!“ you say! We love our guests dearly, and we know you pretty well after 15 years. We know that on busy days the Tomato exists in a state of sort of controlled chaos, so we know what your response to that would be; “Ok! I’ll just cram 20 deep at the bar! No need to sit!” Taking tables out is easier said than done.
Who cleans the bathrooms after each use? How do we take our staff’s temperatures each day? What happens if someone gets sick and then we have to shut down? Who the hell would deep clean the place afterward? Can we still sell beer To Go? Do we introduce wait staff? Do we stop people at the door and not let folks in? How do we keep our staff safe?
We are also having moments of struggling to purchase basic ingredients; flour, yeast, cheese, pepperoni, containers, the list changes week to week.
Do we, Do we, Do we, Do we....etc etc.
All of this coalesces into the considerations we must think about when making these decisions. Because of this, for us organizationally we are deciding to stick this one out a bit longer and Carry On with the Tomato A Go-Go model. Our goal is to make every one of you happy, give you the products you have come to love, and have a good attitude while doing it. Trust us, we miss your happy faces and the excitement you bring to our currently sad dining room more than anything, but we feel it is best to give the reopening process a little more time to develop fully in order to make this successful for all of us.
Please bear with us during this time and thank you for your continued support! We will update everyone promptly if things change on our end!